Book Review - Hush by Eishes Chayil

Friday January 14, 2011

by Eishes Chayil
September 14th 2010 
Walker Books for Young Readers 

Goodreads Summary: Inside the closed community of Borough Park, where most Chassidim live, the rules of life are very clear, determined by an ancient script written thousands of years before down to the last detail—and abuse has never been a part of it. But when thirteen-year-old Gittel learns of the abuse her best friend has suffered at the hands of her own family member, the adults in her community try to persuade Gittel, and themselves, that nothing happened. Forced to remain silent, Gittel begins to question everything she was raised to believe.

A richly detailed and nuanced book, one of both humor and depth, understanding and horror, this story explains a complex world that remains an echo of its past, and illuminates the conflict between yesterday's traditions and today's reality.

Review: This is one of those reads that will stick with you for a long time and if you're anything like me, Google-ing all the cultural references through out the book. I didn't know much about Hasidic Judaism or Chassidim but I did a lot of research while reading. It's a little confusing at first because the author (who uses a pseudonym) blends fiction with the truth in respect to the religious aspects of the book in order to prevent "finger-pointing" a specific sect of the religion.

I really like reading about other cultures/religions because it seems to really add depth to a story when you tie in all the traditions, habits and nuances that make them unique. Plus you are learning something at the same time! While reading about the Chassidim in the story I kept having to remind myself that the story is set in present day because their way of life seems so outdated. With the traditions such as arranged marriage still practiced to this day.

Gittell is an intriguing character and serves as an excellent narrator to the story. As she tells the story of her best friend Devory, growing up together and how things suddenly start to change, an ominous feeling appears as the signs of what is really happening to Devory present themselves.

The chapters alternate between Gittell at around age twelve and her present day seventeen year-old self as she deals with the aftermath of what happened to Devory while preparing for her own marriage and all that comes with it.

This is a deeply moving story and I went through a variety of emotions while reading it...anger, frustration, sadness and laughter. The timely topic of abuse and its cover-up touches all races, religions and cultures. The author, who herself experienced something similar, selects her own culture as a background to the story but in reality it could be anyone who lives in a family and/or culture who chooses to ignore what they don't want to deal with.

With this sensitive subject the book is appropriate for ages 14 and up.

Finalist for ALA Awards 2011 arrows William C. Morris Award